We decided to read this as part of E17 Book Club, seeing as how we had read The Sense Of An Ending and none of us could quite figure out why it had won the Booker Prize (apart from the fact that it was about time Julian Barnes won it!) As this was one of the others on the shortlist, and a debut novel, and an intriguing cover blurb, this was our January choice.
Snowdrops are apparently what the Russians call dead bodies that have been buried under the deep snow and only come to light once the thaw sets in.
The story is written in the form of a confessional letter from Nick, a Brit who once lived in Moscow, working as a lawyer on some high-flying deals. A chance encounter on the subway embroils him into the lives of Masha and her sister.
Masha is sassy and beautiful and needs help with the documentation on her aunt’s desireable central Moscow flat as she wants to move out of the city.
As Nick spends more time with Masha and her sister and her aunt, he occasionally wonders whether everything is quite as it seems – but this is Moscow, and there seem to be hints of dubiousness in everything!
I enjoyed reading this well enough – the story flowed, and it only took a few days to get through. The descriptions of Moscow and its people were interesting and enthralling, but at times felt a little cliched.
My overall feeling though was one of ‘meh’. It always felt like something bigger was just about to happen in the story, and it just never did. It was a pleasant enough ride, but there was nothing memorable, nothing pushed you into NEEDING to go further. I think I could’ve lost the book, started another and never actually felt bothered that I didn’t know what happened at the end!
The way that the book was written, as a letter to a current partner (wife or girlfriend) jarred rather as Nick went on so many times about how great Masha was, how no other woman was like her, how beautiful, how great the sex etc etc – and I really don’t think anyone would be that candid to a partner.
I am rather surprised that it was listed for the Booker Prize, i’m not sure what the exceptional qualities of the book were to warrant it – but then maybe pickings were slim, considering what actually won!